Friday, November 27, 2009

The Fairy Godmother Wands You!

Gift Ideas. Last year, I wrote a post about my gift for gifts called The Fairy Godmother. I invited readers to Comment and share some of their best gift ideas, too. The results were fabulous! Many of you said the exchange sparked ideas for your holiday shopping lists. We could all use a little help this time of year. I’ve decided to invite my Fairy Godmother persona back for another visit—to make her magic dust and gift tips an annual feature. VoilĂ ! Here are this year’s flicks from the Godmom’s Gift Wand:

(SPOILER ALERT! If you are someone who normally gets a holiday gift from me, don’t look, as I may be talking about the gift you haven’t gotten yet this year.)

eBaybe Basket - Our niece has recently become a passionate eBay shopper. Inexpensive baskets make the base for many of my gifts. After the season last year, I got three nesting holiday baskets in green and red for next to nothing. I used the medium-sized one for this collection of goodies: a nifty, electronic kitchen timer for making sure she doesn’t miss those last-minute bids; a pound of Bad Ass Coffee, a company whose name and donkey logo send the right message about being an online shopper in stubborn pursuit of winning the latest auction; and an eBay gift card. I lined the basket with raffia style “grass” and used my computer to create a tag that reads eBaybe Basket.

A Trip Down Under – Some of our relatives can’t travel much anymore due to limited mobility. I figured out a way to send them to Australia, and they only have to go 10 miles from home to get there—no airport security, three-ounce jar limitations for carry-on, and no baggage fees. In fact, no baggage at all except an appetite! I found a darling little stuffed kangaroo at Barnes & Noble online. His pouch is perfect for fitting a gift card to Outback Steakhouse, that yummy Aussie-themed restaurant. I made a special card modeled after an Australian postcard, touting the features of this trip Down Under, no passport needed.

Relief for the Older Relative Who Has Everything - One of my relatives is a challenge for being of a certain age where he has most everything he wants or needs. Also, he travels from across the country to be with us for the holidays. Anything I get him needs to pack well for the return trip. At my local CVS Pharmacy, I stumbled across Sarah Peyton’s Hot & Cold Personal Spa Set. Aside from sounding like the name of my blog, it has soft wraps with therapeutic gel inserts than can be heated or cooled for the aches and pains that invariably go with the turf of an octogenarian—or a someone often much younger. (Me!)

Peace on Earth Bracelets - I love that the peace sign is back! It’s that time of year when we talk most about Peace on Earth. I found wood bead bracelets at Mixed Bag, one of my favorite local boutiques, that have tiny, sterling silver peace sign charms on them. They are perfect for two of my friends, who are as dedicated as I am to being part of the Peace. One of the most beautiful compliments I ever received was from my late, great friend Garry. Writing about me, he said, “She’s all about peace on the planet.” I love recognizing sister peacekeepers in such a lovely way! (Aside to the astro-savvy: These two friends and I, as a trio, call ourselves The Venus Girls for having the planet Venus in a prominent in our charts. If someone you know is a Venus Girl—especially if she’s a Libra or Taurus—two of their big loves are peace and beauty, and this bracelet covers them both.)

Coffee Lover - Last year I focused on another love of my eBaybe niece—Starbucks. We have two credit cards where we accumulate points for purchases. They can be redeemed for gift cards. We often cash in our points for holiday gifts, as in this case. I bought a lovely reindeer gift box for $3 at Michaels, square and deep with the design both inside and out. I put in a gold mug. In the mug is the Starbucks gift card. Also in the gift box was frankincense and myrrh soap by Indigo Wild. The brand is Zum Bar, and it’s made from goat’s milk. I buy the soap at our local Natural Foods Co-op or Whole Foods. It smells divine! However, to unacscentuate that part of the gift till opening and so it doesn’t mingle with the smell of coffee with possibly strange results, I wrapped it in clear cellophane wrap. It sits in a bed of white sparkly “grass” that looks like snow. Behind the mug is a half-pound of Starbucks Christmas Blend in its shiny gold package. I created a bubble in Word and cut it out, so that the deer inside is thinking/saying: There is no greater gift than Love—followed by gold, frankincense, myrrh—and Starbucks!

• For the Runner on Your List - I gave my friend Wendy the book, Women Who Run by Shanti Sosienski. In interviews with numerous women, it explores why women run, what drives them, and what continues to spark their interest in the sport. Even before she pounded pavement, Wendy had some “tootsie trouble.” To help keep her feet in good running condition, I also gave her some new-fangled toe stretchers that can help realign the lower digits if you have any podiatry problems like hammer toes or bunions. While the running book and toe stretchers were Wendy’s gift last year, think of the possibilities for the runner in your life that could accompany a book about running: good padded socks like Thorlo’s, sweat or wrist bands, or iPod download gift cards to make the run both a walk and a concert in the park.

• Literary Mama - My friend Lucy is an excellent writer, but motherhood and working have put literary efforts on the back burner for her. However, she wants to take the pot out and stir it as often as she can. I got her the book, Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined by Seal Press. Mom-writers share the growth they’ve gained through motherhood. Writer’s Digest offered me a free gift subscription if I renewed early. I asked Lucy; she wanted it. This part of the gift wasn’t a surprise, but I asked them to start it with the January issue and bought her a single copy of the December issue to go with the book. It gave me something to present besides just a gift card and served as a preview and “teaser” till her subscription kicked in.

• For Your Favorite Travelers – Another great find for my uncle who travels from afar and around the world is the Travelon Leather ID and Boarding Pass Holder. It’s a fashionable, practical, hands-free “necklace” for your travel documents while doing the airport security jig. What’s more, it passes the true test of a great gift find. I want one!

• Seasonal Delights - Last year, for my sister in Pennsylvania, I put together a seasonal package with a tag that read, Open Before Christmas. Enjoy all season! Starting with a holiday tote bag I got for $4 at Barnes & Noble in a special seasonal promotion (they have them again this year), I started filling it with the darkly playful humor of one of my favorite memoir writers in his gut-buster, Holidays on Ice: Stories by David Sedaris. Also in the package were my favorite frankincense and myrrh soap and a Santa mug filled with packets of exotic hot chocolate blends. I got a kick just thinking of introducing my sister to David and his holiday antics. I could see her sitting in her house, sipping hot chocolate. I added a personally made card (MS Publisher). On the outside, it said Merry Sismas with a vintage boomer photo of the two of us at ages 12 and 13. I added a personal note to the sentiment: Having you for a sister makes it Christmas every day of the year! 

This last idea can be modified to fit any favorite friend or relative. Even the family curmudgeon might enjoy a copy of Scrooge, book or DVD. Add one of with those hilarious cloth gift sacks marked Naughty, containing licorice or other goodies as “lumps of coal.” I just bought a relative one of those cool money jars available at every other store this season. It has a digital gismo that counts your change as you put it in. Wouldn’t your favorite Scrooge enjoy counting his cash while everyone else revels? Oh, and don’t forget a set of earplugs so he can’t hear the carols. And one of those lapel buttons that says “Bah, Humbug!”

I hope this “conversation” has brought out your inner Fairy Godmother! Please have her visit the Comments with any ideas for this annual gift idea exchange.

Don’t forget, Google and your mouse are your best friends during this time of year. No crowds, no parking problems, no snarky shoppers or crabby clerks. However, you must stock a box cutter at home and recycle all the cardboard that will overflow as delivery trucks bring the holiday right to your door.

May your joy in giving catch fire and light the world this holiday season. Peace!


Photo credit: HOLIDAY © Lenta

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Four Elements: I Dig Earth!

Part 4 of 4

© 2009 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

Give me dirt, and I’m in my element. As I’ve mentioned on other posts like Gettin’ Earthy, this is literally true. From my Earth- heavy astrological chart to my Earth imbalance in Chinese medicine, where Earth is my “causative factor” or CF, I am an Earth Girl. To be even more accurate, I’m a spirit on an Earth mission. And I really dig it!

When I’m gardening, I feel closest to Spirit. From childhood on, there has always been something about mud pies, plant roots, and clumps of dirt that heals whatever ails me. Earth ruled from the Beginning. It wasn’t a Campfire, Waterfall, or Breezeway of Paradise—it was the Garden of Paradise. It had trees, flowers, and probably chirruping birds. Earth was its primary element.

The astrological Earth signs are Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn.

But earth is more than dirt, and quite frankly, as a Virgo, I can only play in it so much before I have to clean up! Earth is associated with our physical bodies, our planet that’s named after this element, and a variety of practical skills, as well as sensuality. I have always gotten a charge out of the title of the wacky 1988 movie, Earth Girls Are Easy. Um, yes, we certainly can be especially at the height of our hormones!

The Native American Medicine Wheel represents the Circle of Life. On it, the Earth element is associated with the direction North, the color blue, and the season of winter. One resource on Native American Spirituality calls winter the season of sadness, survival, and waiting. This speaks to both the downside and ultimate triumph of the element Earth. Everything “natural” on the Planet Earth ultimately dies. That‘s literal just once, but meanwhile, throughout a lifetime, little deaths of things in their current form give rise to resurrection in both a literal and figurative recurring springtime. Earth is the anchor element of all four—some would argue the sweetest. The temporary nature of life here makes everything so poignant. One of my favorite moments I’ve mentioned before comes in the John Travolta movie, Michael. Playing an angel completing his mission who is about to return to the heavenly realms, he surveys the beauty all around him and says, “I’m really going to miss this.”

Thanksgiving is an earthy holiday where we gorge ourselves with food to nourish and bring pleasure to our physical bodies. We are grateful for Earth’s bounty. We revel for living on a planet that supports our life form, not just in a so-so way, but with bawdy abundance.

This holiday, spend a little time contemplating your relationship to the element Earth. Get down ‘n’ dirty in whatever form appeals to you from digging in planter boxes to the sensual side of Earth’s blessings.

One of the greatest gifts of Earth is grounding. May your roots be deeply planted and closely intertwined with Gaia, the spirit of the divine dirt upon which we are privileged to live and share and have our being.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Photo Credit: MAN HOLDING SEEDLING © Markross |
For more on Thanksgiving inspiration with an astrological spin, read Jumpin’ Jupiter, Happy Thanksgiving on The Radical Virgo.

Four Element Series
Air - Air Born
Fire - Hearts Afire
Water - Wetting Reception


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Three Minutes of Fame

Dear Cool Insighters,

This is a between-the-posts share about how my six-word memoir led to a local TV interview. Last year, I wrote the following micro-memoir on Smith Magazine’s six-word memoir site:

First love lost, 14; married, 50.

It’s Tim’s and my love story in a nutshell. (Want 200 more words? Click “show backstory” under these six words and the picture of Tim and me at my 8th grade graduation on my Smith link.) This summer, Smith partnered with AARP Magazine to do a regular column for the 50+ audience. Ours was chosen as one of the tiny memoirs on the theme of love (Less Is L’amour …) in the September/October 2009 issue.

This tiny blurb turns out to be six of the most evocative words I have ever written! Old friends saw the entry in the AARP column, and I got calls from people I hadn’t spoken with in decades. Soon I had an e-mail from a local reporter who wanted to feature us on “Good Day Sacramento” on a show they were doing with a “lost loves” theme.

Since the clip is from a copyrighted TV show, I can’t link to it directly, but if you’d like to see it, here are the directions:

Go to Good Day Sacramento.: . Once you’re on the GDS website, on the right there’s a Good Day Videos screen. Under the screen, the far right button says Menu. To the left of Menu is a spyglass. Click the spyglass, which activates a search window. Plug in the words “lost loves,” and you’ll find our video.

We hope our story inspires others who always wondered about their lost loves. While not all stories have our happy ending, it’s healing to complete that circle of “unfinished business” and “always wondering,” regardless of the outcome.

And about that 15 minutes of fame Andy Warhol said we all get? I’ve still got 12 left! I hope I can cash them in on a book or two—or ten.

Here’s to those flashes back to the past,



Photo: My favorite of the booth photos Tim and I took in Dallas on February 14, 1997, our first Valentine’s Day together since 1961.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Four Elements: Wetting Reception

Part 3 of 4

© 2009
by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

Rain drenches us; it ruins our plans. It tends to make us feel depressed and to declare that the day has gone downhill.

Yet rain—water—cleanses, and changes in plans often hold hidden blessings. Downpours drive us indoors where we can be closer to our family and ourselves—the actions, people, and things that form our foundations and replenish us daily. It can drive us inward to contemplate, reorganize, and wonder about the meaning of life … how the events in our everyday dramas add up to something bigger. We can listen to our favorite music while tinkering around the house, tackling a put-off project, or treating ourselves to some bonus relaxation. Consider curling up with your favorite magazine, book, or source of encouragement with the rain splattering on the roof as background music.

Getting wet is a refreshing back-to-nature experience, if you look at it with the wide eyes of a child. In our high-tech culture, too often we are literally not in touch with the elements and the magnificence all around us. Remember when you were a kid, opening your mouth, tilting back your head, and hoping you could gather enough drops for a drink of fresh rainwater?

The element water probably holds its own special place for you. For me, it was often a scary place. My mother’s fear of water rubbed off on me. (She almost drowned as a child.) But I was bent on overcoming it. It took me nothing short of 50 tries to get up on water skis for the first time. As I grew up, I discovered the muscle-soothing heaven of a whirlpool and floating down the river in a rubber raft in the lazy days of summer.

Rivers themselves are home to me, and I bless the day that I migrated to a city with two of them. My friends and I hold ceremonies celebrating the changes of seasons, milestone birthdays, and weddings on the banks of the American River. In the Native American Medicine Wheel, the element water is associated with the West, the color blue, feelings, the season fall, and the setting sun. It always feels right this time of year to create our own ceremonial circle surrounded by the element autumn celebrates.

I soothe myself with lunch on the Sacramento or overlooking the American. Driving down the Delta Highway is heaven. The closer I am to water, the more I am alive … not to mention the two liters a day that I drink. The more I get, the more I want. What I once feared, I now crave … and none of us can live without it.

Water symbolizes emotions, no more literally than in our tears. There is a popular wedding blessing: Let there be such oneness between us, that when one cries, the other will taste salt. Tears are the rain of intimacy. Soggy days, as my dad used to call them after my mom died, are the thunderstorms of loss and disconnection. They are the release that clears the air and revitalizes the atmosphere. Without them, we can’t love again.

The astrological Water Signs are Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.

Movies, our great cultural barometer, have seen rain. Gene Kelly was Singin’ (and Dancin’) in the Rain, showing us the best time in water since our rubber ducky. On the side of soggy days that never end, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a ‘60s, soapy French musical, is set in a rainy town where the heroine, played by a young Catherine Deneuve, sells umbrellas--les parapluies-- in a small shop. She goes on to face love lost with all its heartbreak, a tearjerker that could only be set in the rain.

And let’s not forget surfer movies, shipwrecked themes— stranded on an island surrounded by water—the lightweight beach blanket genre, water theme park, and submarine flicks. More recently, the myth of her people’s Whale Rider helps a young aboriginal girl in New Zealand triumph over centuries of male tradition to take her rightful place as chief. There’s even a water horror genre—Jaws.

But closer to home: Baths and showers can elevate water to a sacred experience. Candles, soft music, and plenty of aromatherapy crystals turn a bath tub into an altar and a celebration of letting go. Water has a high place in our lives. As babies, we are baptized in it. Catholics cross themselves—a sacred gesture—with holy water, not clumps of dirt or sparks of fire. And one of the sweetest ways we can leave life and our earthly remains behind us it to have our ashes scattered at sea.

We water our plants and lawn, a ritual to help nature and help us mark time in our impatience till the flowers bloom. Where I come from, winters are cold, wet, and rainy. Winter beats down on our windows, but spring and summer and water hoses create an illusion of some temporary control over this element we can’t grasp, but only let flow.

On the other hand, when our actions are less than brilliant, people wonder if we have enough sense to come in out of the rain. I hope not.

Hug your next rain shower and experience the element water. Write down what it feels like and what you learn. There’s a reason why most of us and our gorgeous globe is made up of H2O. Go discover it!

Then, to take it a step further, ask yourself: What other changes in weather, literal and figurative, make me balk? What treasures am I missing—resisting?


Photo Credit: THE BEAUTY OF RAIN © Lyoung403b |

Four Element Series

Air - Air Born
Fire - Hearts Afire
Earth - I Dig Earth!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Four Elements: Hearts Afire

Part 2 of 4

© 2009 by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved.

Chances are early man first observed a naturally occurring fire from a lightning strike--some say, as long as 40,000 years ago. It may have taken many generations before Homo erectus figured out how to strike two rocks together to start a fire on his own. Once these early men got that know-how, they had overcome one of the biggest hurdles to evolution. Life would never be the same. Now meat could be germ-free, and eating it would take less gnawing, which led to a smaller jaw and teeth. With more digestible nutrients, both their brains and bodies increased in size. Fire allowed creation of better tools for more effective hunting, ensuring a steady food supply. Fire kept carnivorous animals at bay that preyed on humans for food. It provided warmth and comfort.

And that’s just on the physical level! We might still be squatting in caves without it, and, ladies—heaven forbid—cavemen might still be dragging us around by our hair bearing a club. These are reason alone to light candles on our altars, paying homage to the element fire. We wouldn’t be here now—in our present shape, form, freedom, and capabilities—if it weren’t for the fire discovered and perpetuated by our earliest human ancestors.

Fire is this and so much more. When we’re excited, we say “we’re all fired up.” When we’re passionate about something we’re doing, we’re “on fire.” When stress takes it’s toll, we’re “burnt out.”

These expressions all suggest what Fire means in Chinese medicine. I have used acupuncture as one of my main healing modalities for nearly 25 years. In that system, Fire rules the heart and circulation. Before traditional Chinese medicine practitioners knew about the nerves and glands, they called these systems The Triple Warmer or sex energy. A person with excess fire in Chinese medicine terms is high-strung and highly stressed. Conversely, a person who lacks fire would feel burned out and may suffer fatigue, restlessness, and disturbed sleep among a bevy of other potential symptoms.

It’s the connection to the heart that makes fire so important. It is our spark and the seat of the warmth we are able to give each other. There is no love without fire.

The astrological Fire Signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius.

One of my favorite songs of all time is Hearts Afire by Earth, Wind, and Fire. (Could I really do a series on the elements without mentioning this band I fell in love with in the ‘70s? I’ve always loved their astrology-inspired name.) I was mad for the TV series of the same name starring the late John Ritter, Markie Post, and Billy Bob Thornton during its short run from 1992-95.

Passion is heat, whether it’s sex or anger. We refer to a sexy man or woman as hot or a hottie. When an e-mail or internet post is angry, mean, or spiteful, it’s flaming. It’s often not easy to contain, that’s why the astrological fire signs have their challenges with reeling in their anger or urge to go forward (the Aries temper and impatience), their pride (Leo boastfulness) or opinions (the Sagittarius know-it-all).

In Native American spirituality, Fire is associated with the direction South. Its color is white for peace and happiness. Its season is summer, a time, of plenty. Perhaps the old “rule” for wearing white only in summer till Labor Day came from this association.

Fire is Eros—our life force. In mythology, the god Eros is the patron of male love. (Aphrodite rules the love between men and women). Still, sexuality is only one aspect of Eros, even though the term erotic is derived from it. Eros is our flame, the passion that fires our work in the world, and our life energy itself. It’s what makes us shine and fires us up to get the job done. In one of the astrology books that most changed my life, Chiron: Rainbow Bridge Between the Inner and Outer Planets, Barbara Hand Clow links eros with the kundalini or awakened life force. The idea is to have this energy flow freely through all our chakras from the base of our spine to our third eye. The kundalini rises naturally at the Uranus Opposition, according to Clow, which happens when we are around 40. The Uranus Opposition is one of the midlife transits that associated with "midlife crisis." The sexual side of that energy is often what causes otherwise “normal” people to leave spouses, have affairs, or buy a hot red sports car! Ultimately, when kundalini rises through all seven chakras, we have harnessed the life force in its full possibilities and become balanced, warm, and often overtly spiritual people.

Don’t play with fire, but do experiment with it! From candles to a roaring fire in the fireplace, watch it on your gas range, barbecue, or try some Tiki torches on your patio. If there’s a controlled burn or an unexpected fire in your area, watch from afar and see what you learn just by observing this element. It’s fast and furious, it can be quickly destructive, but it also can provide everything that nurtures us—hot food and drink and a snuggly temperature for hugging.

Fire is the life force, and most important of all, the love force. Of course, there’s no difference:

"The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire." ~ Pierre de Chardin


Photo Credit: FIRE HEART © Silverv |

Four Element Series

Air - Air Born
Water - Wetting Reception
Earth - I Dig Earth!


How Was Fire Discovered
Fire and Early Man
Fire Chinese Element Symptoms
Native Spirituality